Officers have warned parents and children to be vigilant after as many as nine youngsters in Padstow, Cornwall, were targeted through the networking sites Bebo and MSN. Police initially believed a local man was trying to groom the children by befriending them online and arranging to meet them. But a member of the public has come forward and told them that youngsters are trying to settle playground disputes by posing as a paedophile to frighten their rivals.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: "Information from the public has highlighted a possibility that the offenders could be children aged 10 and over, masquerading as a paedophile. The investigations are continuing and at this moment we are looking into every line of inquiry and are not ruling out any possibility. However, the language used on the social networking sites such as Bebo and MSN is at times childish. It could be youngsters playing a sick game to try and intimidate friends they have fallen out with. This will be treated seriously and we will be contacting the families of the children involved and we will try and help them by involving social services."Granted, a lot of this is the inevitable modern variant of kids trying to scare each other with imaginary serial killers/monsters/urban myths, updated for the age of paedoterror, though it wouldn't surprise me if, in these jumpy times, some 12-year-old ended up on the sex offenders' register after pulling such a stunt.
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